Culture Crash

8/1/2020
Mark C. Bach
Hey I am a cultured guy. With a last name of "Bach" you know I bleed culture. Or at least bleed after wrenching on the cars. I eat yogurt and go to museums. Like the NHRA Museum, the Petersen Automotive Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum. Yes I said ART museum, so read along and find out why.
 
The Phoenix Art Museum has a great collection of fine arts and brings in outstanding exhibits. But this past season from November 3, 2019 to March 15, 2020 they curated their very own "Legends of Speed" exhibit. Now some art exhibits are "traveling" exhibits and go from museum to museum across the country over the course of a few years. Regrettably this exhibit was a onetime shot and can't be seen elsewhere.
 
 
The Legends of Speed rounded up twenty two cars that the curator thought highly significant. Imagine first trying to narrow down the field of cars, and then figure out how to display them in the exhibit hall and then coordinate the cars coming in from a variety of collectors. Fortunately one of the owners offered up several of his cars to simplify things.
Now I wish we had enough room to showcase all these beautiful cars but then we would have to change the title of the magazine for one issue. But here are some of my favorite cars.

1952 Mercedes 300 SL
Of course if it has gull wing doors I am all over it. This silver beauty features an aluminum chassis that rose up high around the sides. A normal door would weaken the structure so Mercedes crafted the gull wing door to keep the high sides of the chassis. It was so sleek that its 6 cylinder engine could pump out 170 horsepower and 180 mph. The car won the 1952 Le Mans, a first for either a closed car or a German manufacturer. I find it odd that the car wasn't shown with the doors up, which is the iconic look for the gullwing's.
 
1962 Ferrari 250 GTO
Ferrari modified a 250 SWB - short wheelbase - to compete against Jaguar's E types. The GTO was more aerodynamic and the engine shifted back to move the center of gravity. The model ended up winning three straight GT championships so they must have done something right. Right now the GTO's are the peak of collectors' attention and command top dollar.
 
1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe    
We had you at Shelby right? This Cobra was designed by Peter Brock to compete in the international Grand Touring racing class. The redesigned shape, with that abruptly cut off rear end boosted 20 mph to the Cobra's top speed. It was named Daytona after setting the lap record at that Florida racetrack. Then this car took off to Europe for the 1964 race season where it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans
 
1968 Ford GT40
Of course a Ford GT40 would catch my attention but folks this is the Holy Grail of GT40's. This was the model in the recent movie, Ford vs. Ferrari. Ford sent two of the first GT40's to Carroll Shelby where he slipped in a 427 monster engine and added some more tweaks. The Ford's won both the 1966 and 1967 Le Mans. They changed the rules in 1968 against Ford, so this car was produced for the 1968-69 season with a Ford small block and won six of the eleven races including another set of Le Mans victories.
 
1978 Lotus 79
Besides being a sleek beauty of speed, this race car has a significant race history. This is the car that Mario Andretti raced to his Formula One driver's championship. Those black and gold colors shined at the exhibit and highlighted the artistic styling. It was powered by a miserly 182 C.I. engine with a five speed manual. But that engine red lighted at 10,600 rpm's where it produced 480 horsepower.
 
It is a shame that this collection didn't get a chance to travel the museum circuit but am glad that I had a chance to see it in person.
 
 
(c) 2020 Mark C. Bach
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